There are many kinds of aspect ratios of film like 4:3 (Academy Standard), 3:2, 1.85:1 (Academy Flat), 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Scope), 16:9, etc, but for home theater, the most usual film aspect ratios just include 4:3, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. The TV screen’s common aspect ratios are 4:3 and 16:9. The MPEG2 standard of DVD requires the film content to be 720×480 which is the classic 3:2 image proportion. In order to harmonize the relationship among film, TV, and DVD so that DVD can be compatibly shown on television screen, film producers structure their DVDs in three display modes, Pan & Scan, Letter Box, and Anamorphic (or Widescreen).
1. Pan & Scan Mode
This mode is known as Full Screen Mode in DVD player. We call up-and-down direction “vertical” while left-and-right direction “horizontal”. Many introductions of the DVD image inclusion and omission on the internet are obscure, in fact, it is a matter of the fact that whether the vertical or the horizontal predominates.
The Pan & Scan Mode focuses on the vertical image. To make the widescreen movie displayed on the 4:3 TV at full screen, the Pan & Scan mode will cut the left and right information of the original film. The 1.85:1 (Academy Flat) film will be cropped by about 28%. If this result still can be acceptable, the 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Scope) film will suffer a 43% loss which means nearly half the original image contents won’t be displayed. This is unendurable for movie fans. As we know, the film is an art whose thought is expressed by means of sounds and pictures, and the director and cameraman will aim to ensure the integrity of the picture when they compose the photograph. If you see a DVD movie, in which the faces of some characters are incomplete or the dialogues are mixed, the reason for this largely is that the film editor has sacrificed parts of horizontal film picture for preserving the complete vertical film picture.
2. Letter Box Mode
This mode focuses on the horizontal image. Whatever the film aspect ratio is, as long as the horizontal image is fully displayed, the vertical image is guaranteed to be full. The drawback of Letter Box Mode is apparent, that is the vertical image touches neither the sky nor the ground. The DVD player will automatically fill the top and bottom corner of the frame with the black lines. It is tolerable to view the 1.85:1 (Academy Flat) movies in Letter Box Mode, because the black bars located at the top and the bottom are not many. Some people even get accustomed to these black bars after seeing long. But for the 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Scope) movies, when you play them on the common 4:3 TV, the black bars will occupy for about 44% of the TV screen. Just imagine, you have a 34-inch television, but you only can see a less 19-inch small image on your big TV. This indeed is wasteful. But, completely seeing is always better than incompletely seeing, thus, the Letter Box Mode is widely used in the today’s DVD making.
Then, we easily come to two conclusions. One conclusion is that because the 2.35:1 films are the mainstream in Hollywood all these years, the image of the 4:3 DVDs must be cropped. The other conclusion is that as long as the aspect ratio of a DVD is 2.35:1, its image must completely recreate the original movie. According to the two thoughts, some DVD collectors develop a simple rule for DVD collection: apart from the old classic films, they do not collect non-2.35:1 films released in recent years.
3. Anamorphic (or Widescreen)
This mode can adjust the proportion of picture depending on the television. Any TV, either the 4:3 or the 16:9, may play anamorphic DVDs at full screen, just the former’s images look slightly tall and thin. When you buy a DVD, please attention to the reverse side of the disc package, if you can see “Anamorphic 16:9” or “Widescreen Anamorphic”, it will be the anamorphic DVD.
At last, I have to say, the three movie storing methods above, which film producers use to record DVDs, have their own deficiencies, but I’m sure the film producers will find a better solution to this problem in future.
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